Many of you have probably heard the term “bucket list,” especially when it relates to travel. If you aren’t already familiar, a bucket list is a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime. A China vacation resulted in fulfilling #10 on my bucket list:
“#10 Stand on the Great Wall of China and have a deep thought.”
This item on my personal bucket list was the motivating factor for my recent trip to China, and only a few days after arriving, I was able to cross it off with a joy-filled smile!
My incredible trip to China began on May 7, 2016 as I departed Toronto for Beijing. My 14-day journey of discovery through China would roughly follow the itinerary of Goway’s China Odyssey with Hangzhou Extension (although with some minor adjustments).
China’s capital city was my first stop and a truly amazing place to start the trip. After arriving in Beijing, conquering jetlag, and adjusting to the new time zone, I was eager to begin my exploration of the highlights of this hub of culture and history. Visiting Jingshan Park, which offers stunning panoramic views of the Forbidden City, was a definite highlight, as was the delectable Peking duck dinner in the evening at the famous Da Dong restaurant. Without question, the most memorable moment of my time in Beijing (and the whole trip for that matter) was visiting the Great Wall of China. I awoke to a beautiful sunny day with clear blue skies, as I headed to the Badaling section of the Great Wall with my driver and guide. Badaling is one of the most restored sections and also the most popular with visitors, as it offers great vantage points and is relatively easy to climb. Bucket list wish checked off!
Home of the internationally famous Terracotta Warriors and starting point of China’s Silk Road, Xian would be my next stop. I’m a huge fan of experiencing as many types of transportation during my travels, so was thrilled to make the 1,216km (756 mile) journey by high-speed train. Clean, comfortable, and fast! The train sped along from Beijing to Xian at a speed of 300km/hr (186.5 miles/hr), and took approximately 4 hours and 25minutes. I had opted not to visit the Terracotta Warriors that Xian is most famous for, and instead decided to experience the other great sites/experiences that it has to offer. My most memorable highlights in this former capital of China were walking along the ancient city wall and visiting Giant Wild Goose Pagoda (which actually leans – similar to the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy).
Guilin is home to the stunning Li River and is renowned for its stunning scenery of karst topography. I flew from Xian to Guilin with China Southern Airlines, and although I would only stay one night, I wanted to experience what I could in the evening. After a great dinner at a local restaurant, I went on the Four Rivers/Two Lakes cruise, which was spectacular, and upon disembarkation, witnessed the impressive waterfall show at Guilin Lijiang Waterfall Hotel (the largest artificial waterfall in the world)! Truly an amazing sight to behold.
Li River Cruise & Yangshuo
On this day, I boarded the cruise ship in Guilin for the journey along the awe-inspiring Li River to Yangshuo (83km / 52miles). The journey took about 4 hours and within that amount of time, I think I took nearly 200 pictures. The scenery along the Li River is so stunning – it is one of the most famous rivers in China. In fact, you can find the iconic karst mountains of the Li River on the back of each 20 yuan bill. When many people plan their China vacation, they think only of the Yangtze River, however I encourage all visitors who have not experienced the Li River to make it a priority on their next trip! Yangshuo is a haven for relaxation and outdoor experiences and is very popular with tourists. Unfortunately rain put a damper on the day, as I was planning to bicycle through local rice paddies and visit nearby villages, but I still enjoyed my time here – especially shopping and dining on West Street.
The capital of China during the Song dynasty, Hangzhou would be my next stop, after a short flight from Guilin (2 hrs). This capital city of Zhejiang Province is notoriously known for stunning West Lake, with its many bridges and walking paths. Hangzhou is well known in China as being one of the most beautiful places in the country, and is famous for its historical and cultural heritage. I had the great experience of cruising on West Lake, visiting Lingyin Temple with its ancient grottos, strolling through Mr. Guo’s Garden, and also making a visit to the Museum of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which proved very interesting. My fabulous stay at Sofitel Hangzhou Westlake made this part of my China vacation especially enjoyable.
Hangzhou – China’s Hidden Gem
Shanghai, one of the world’s most populous cities with nearly 23 million people, would be the final stop of this incredible journey, before I was to return to Canada. I took another high-speed train from Hangzhou to Shanghai – which took less than one hour. My first evening in Shanghai, I fell in love with the magnificent cityscape and lights of this major metropolis during my cruise on the Huang Pu River. I took in the best highlights of Shanghai and was truly blown away by the culture and history at the Jade Buddha Temple, French Concession area, and Yuyuan Garden. On my final day in Shanghai, I journeyed outside of the city by about 1 hour to the nearby water town of Zhujiajiao. Although not as well-known as Suzhou, this scenic town, which was established about 1,700 years ago, did not disappoint. A leisurely cruise through the canals, shopping, and some amazing places for photography made this a day I’ll not soon forget.
In fact, enjoying a China vacation while fulfilling one of the items on my bucket list is an experience that will last with me forever!